Convergent Miniframe

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Frank Hintsch

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Aug 25, 2017, 12:37:14 PM8/25/17
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Does anyone have experiences with a Convergent Technologies Miniframe, i.e. reading a Miniframe disk with MFM reader/emulator?


Convergent MightyFrame

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Aug 29, 2017, 12:31:43 PM8/29/17
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Frank!  Oh my gosh, you actually HAVE one of these?

I've been searching for one for years!  I'm the defacto expert on Convergent Technologies stuff here, and I've restored Convergent Technologies MightyFrames and Unix PCs.  But I've always wanted to work on a MiniFrame, due to their similarity in part to both machines.

So, the answer is both a resounding yes and no, I have experience, and I don't.  I have extensive experience with the MFM emulator on the MightyFrame and the Unix PC, and the MiniFrame is said to be "functionally equivalent" to the Unix PC, but without ever seeing one in person, I have yet to be able to confirm that.

I would be highly motivated to help you restore every aspect of what you have there.  Do you have more pictures of the hardware that you could share?  

Please visit my site at http://MightyFrame.com . If you wish to contact me directly, please click on the Contact tab, and email me there.

I'd love to help you with your project anyway possible.  I believe I even have access to (and the ability to) get you an install tape that was archived by Al Kossow at the Computer History Museum some years back.

Let me know.  I'll look forward to hearing from you.

Thanks for sharing this!
-AJ

Frank Hintsch

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Aug 29, 2017, 5:11:45 PM8/29/17
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AJ! It's true, I have a Miniframe. 
I bought it in 1985, worked with it some years (software developing), then it was stored away in the basement. Now I had the time to recover this nice machine. It is starting, booting and prompting for login! But dam it! I forgot the root (and any other) password!
I discussed this problem with the german forum for "classical computers" (it's like america's VCF). The conclusion is: Read in the hard disk with MFM emulator and try a decryption of /etc/passwd entries.
The machine has some kind of minimal configuration, no tape device, no network adapter, just one TM31 (Motorola naming) terminal connected over RS422 or RS232.


Thanks for your support

Frank

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Convergent MightyFrame

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Aug 29, 2017, 6:45:05 PM8/29/17
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Frank, that is an absolutely beautiful machine, thanks for sharing!

I'm quite confident that I (and even David G here) can help you get this machine up and running.  I think that I can even help you with the logout issue after you have the existing OS hard drive safely cloned onto an MFM emulator file.  I've done some VERY similar (and tricky) stuff with these Convergent machines, so I think that I might have some tricks that might not be as well known elsewhere.  I've even created a ton of YouTube videos demonstrating some of these techniques.  Hopefully I can be a helpful resource.  

Helpful or not, I'm certainly a motivated resource, because I'm very interested in seeing your machine preserved (hardware & software alike), as well as documented for historical reference.

So are you in Germany, or somewhere in Europe?

Whatever you do with this machine, all I ask is that you preserve it, whether you keep it for yourself, or sell/donate it to a vintage computer / restoration home of some sort.  As far as I know, you have the only MiniFrame left in existence (at least that I've identified).  

This makes it more rare than the MightyFrame, and so far, I've only identified 7 of those in the world, of which I own 3.  http://mightyframe.blogspot.com/p/mightyframe-register.html

May I have your permission to re-post some of your pictures and text from here over on my site at MightyFrame.com ?

I'd love to talk about a lot of the specifics on how to help you with this.  If any of that level of the discussion reaches beyond the scope of this forum, please feel free to email me directly.  http://mightyframe.blogspot.com/p/contact.html

I look forward to hearing from you and helping!

Best,
-AJ

Frank Hintsch

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Aug 30, 2017, 12:10:17 PM8/30/17
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AJ, I am very lucky having so many people from Germany and US ready to support me. And I am proud to be owner of this machine which seems to be a very rare piece. In my opinion it is a very well constructed hardware even from todays point of view.

You may share the photos with anybody you want and may register the Miniframe on your website.

My home is in Hamburg, Germany.

It's a pleasure to be in contact with you and all the other MFM guys.
I'll keep you informed.

Frank

Fritz Chwolka

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Aug 30, 2017, 5:08:50 PM8/30/17
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Frank will got a MFM reader/Emulator this week by Robert. Robert and I will help with making a correct copy of his harddisk. If Frank has big problems I'll make a trip to Hamburg so my wife can make a sightseeing stop and I'll a visit at Franks basement. ;-)   But I know the HOWTOs made by Robert to help Frank using the MFM reader/Emulator are well made and little problems with understanding are to bee  easy cleared by phone.

 

Convergent MightyFrame

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Aug 31, 2017, 12:04:48 AM8/31/17
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Frank & Fritz, I look forward to seeing your progress, and helping as I may along the way.

Frank, thanks for being so generous with your machine documentation.  I'm in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA, so unfortunately I'm a bit far away from you geographically.  But that shouldn't be much of an obstacle.  There's plenty that we can do to share this process over the internet.

I'll be watching here!
-AJ

Convergent MightyFrame

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Aug 31, 2017, 12:43:40 AM8/31/17
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Frank, a couple of things.  

1) Would you be willing to share the URL for the German forum for "classical computers" that you refer to?  Not knowing how to search for it in German on Google, I'm at a loss to browse it. (not that I would understand much once I got there...)

2) It looks like your MiniFrame is actually branded "Motorola" on the front.  Apparently their model 6300.  Since you bought this new in 1985, what do you know about the story of this branding, if anything?  Was it sold with a specific function in mind relating to Motorola?

3) I'm very curious about the manufacturer of the floppy disk drive.  Since Convergent didn't manufacture peripherals, they would have purchased that from a maker of such drives.  Would it be possible for you to look at the board or chassis of the floppy drive?  I'm quite curious what make and model it is.
(FYI, the Unix PCs, Convergent's most similar machine to the MiniFrame, used TEAC FD-55BV drives, or very similar models)

4) I'm also curious with make/model of MFM drive you have in that.

Convergent MightyFrame

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Aug 31, 2017, 12:48:20 AM8/31/17
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5) Would you be able to provide a picture of the back, showing all of the connection ports?

Thank you so much, Frank!
-AJ

Frank Hintsch

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Aug 31, 2017, 5:03:10 AM8/31/17
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AJ, while still waiting for the postman I can answer your questions
ad 1)
ad 2)
I do not know any stories about the OEM relation of Motorola and CT. As far as I can see the re-branding was nearly complete since all the necessary manuals were produced by Motorola. I attach a few page copies of some manuals. Would it be interesting to have a complete copy of the manual pack?
ad 3)
For now I have a photo of the floppy drive:


more later
ad 4)
comes later
ad 5)
this is the back view


Miniframe and terminal TM31 can be connected either via RS422 and RS232. You can select the connection by means of the terminals firmware. The black brick on the right is the terminal's power supply, really heavy!

Now the postman arrived...
Frank
InstallationGuide.pdf
InternationalSupportPackage.pdf
RefManualPart2.pdf
SystemAdministratorsGuide.pdf

David Gesswein

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Aug 31, 2017, 7:38:11 AM8/31/17
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On Wed, Aug 30, 2017 at 02:08:50PM -0700, Fritz Chwolka wrote:
> But I know the HOWTOs made by Robert to
> help Frank using the MFM reader/Emulator are well made and little problems
> with understanding are to bee easy cleared by phone.
>
If these howto's are generally useful and online let me know the URL
and I will link to them.

Frank Hintsch

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Aug 31, 2017, 10:57:09 AM8/31/17
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MFM Reader working on Miniframe Disk

<pre>
root@beaglebone:~/mfm# ./setup_mfm_read 
Rev B Board
root@beaglebone:~/mfm# ./mfm_read -a -e s6300_ext -m s6300_emu -t s6300_tra
Board revision B detected
Found drive at select 1
Drive RPM 3580.4
Matches count 34 for controller WD_1006
Header CRC: Polynomial 0x1021 length 16 initial value 0xffff
Sector length 512
Data CRC: Polynomial 0x1021 length 16 initial value 0xffff
Number of heads 4 number of sectors 17 first sector 0
Interleave (not checked): 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16
Drive supports buffered seeks (ST412)
No sectors readable from cylinder 640                                          
Stopping end of disk search due to two unreadable tracks in a row
Number of cylinders 640, 22.3 MB

Command line to read disk:
--sectors 17,0 --heads 4 --cylinders 640 --header_crc 0xffff,0x1021,16,0 --data_crc  0xffff,0x1021,16,0 --format WD_1006 --sector_length 512 --retries 50 --drive 1 
Found cyl 0 to 639, head 0 to 3, sector 0 to 16                                
Expected 43520 sectors got 43520 good sectors, 0 bad header, 0 bad data
0 sectors corrected with ECC. Max bits in burst corrected 0
Track read time in ms min 29.487041 max 1450.497916 avg 43.445303
</pre>

rfka 01

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Aug 31, 2017, 1:54:28 PM8/31/17
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Robert here ...

Basically the hints I gave Frank with my board were

a) connect via Ethernet and let the router do DHCP, SSH via PuTTY to that addresss
b) unless the harddisk is flaky, read it out with another -a (Analysis) to avoid typing the typo-prone parameter list
c) install a local FTP server and send the resulting files over via WPUT

Convergent MightyFrame

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Aug 31, 2017, 2:51:14 PM8/31/17
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Frank, thank you for sharing all this info!

The 4 PDF manuals/guides look very intriguing.  They are all branded Motorola, apparently specifically for their branded version of the MiniFrame, so these are new information, not archived historically anywhere yet.

I notice that each PDF is only the beginning, or the cover, of each manual.  I actually think that all 4 of them are well worth archiving in their entirity, and I'll volunter my site at MightyFrame.com to be a location for that archive.  I'll probably also be able to get Al Kossow at the Computer History Museum to archive them (bitsavers.org), as well as Archive.org (the Wayback Machine guys).

What kind of effort would be involved in scanning them entirely?

Frank Hintsch

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Aug 31, 2017, 3:04:16 PM8/31/17
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Am Donnerstag, 31. August 2017 20:51:14 UTC+2 schrieb Convergent MightyFrame:

What kind of effort would be involved in scanning them entirely?

I still check this. First approach was a nearby copy shop but they would produce picture PDF only without any OCR . But my aim is having manuals with the ability to search for a string.

Another question: You said my Miniframe ist the only you know about. What is about http://cholla.mmto.org/computers/miniframe/index.html ?

Frank Hintsch

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Aug 31, 2017, 3:32:49 PM8/31/17
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ad 4)
this is a picture of the labels on the hard disk

Regarding the Floppy: 
Do you have enough information now? I could not see any manufacturer's label.

Convergent MightyFrame

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Aug 31, 2017, 10:22:51 PM8/31/17
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Frank,


I still check this. First approach was a nearby copy shop but they would produce picture PDF only without any OCR . But my aim is having manuals with the ability to search for a string.

I totally agree with this approach.  I think it is well worth the effort to get these archived.  They likely don't exist anywhere else.  So thank you for making this effort!

 
Another question: You said my Miniframe ist the only you know about. What is about http://cholla.mmto.org/computers/miniframe/index.html ?

That is Tom Trebisky.  Because of this page that you found, and my reaching out to him years ago now, we have become friends.  At the time that he created this page, he had one MiniFrame motherboard mounted to a piece of plywood (no chassis).  He never took any pictures of it.  And about a year before I contacted him, he threw it in the trash, so he no longer has it.

That is why I say that your MiniFrame is the only surviving one that we've found.  I've confirmed that his is long gone.

The only other MiniFrame that might still exist is one that was discussed here in October 2006.  I used these images to build my first page on the MiniFrame some years ago:


The pictures I show on this page are from http://bit.ly/1Sg1Xmd
and

But I've never been able to reach Niki Hammler to see if he still has this.  Maybe you can find him?  THEN if we confirm he still has it, your machine will be one of only two identified.  But still, VERY rare indeed.

Cheers,
-AJ


 

pbi...@gmail.com

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Sep 1, 2017, 2:14:57 AM9/1/17
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Frank;

I use an old copy of Adobe Acrobat Pro for OCRing existing PDFs and get quite good results given "decent" images.  It doesn't destructively alter the image so the resulting text is simply "underlying" and is extremely useful for search and, of course, copy-paste into other forms.  I've even found this approach to be useful for when I have a source where I simply have a "happy snap" from a screen image (e.g., in a browser when viewing a site that prevents image-download) to process in order to grab some text-content.  Snap to image-file to PDF then OCR and final save.

I'd be happy to process your PDFs for you if you decide to take that path.  I think that you want the scans to be at least 300 dpi for good OCR; 600 dpi for good figures (and especially schematics).  More resolution is almost always better :->.


On Thursday, August 31, 2017 at 3:04:16 PM UTC-4, Frank Hintsch wrote:


Am Donnerstag, 31. August 2017 20:51:14 UTC+2 schrieb Convergent MightyFrame:

What kind of effort would be involved in scanning them entirely?

I still check this. First approach was a nearby copy shop but they would produce picture PDF only without any OCR . But my aim is having manuals with the ability to search for a string.

-----

Frank Hintsch

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Sep 1, 2017, 4:51:53 AM9/1/17
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Mission accomplished!


First of all: I am very happy and like to say THANK YOU VERY MUCH!

Next step: I will read the EPROMs, then document some pins on the mainboard, then digitize the manuals, then ... ? What do you want?

Best regards
Frank

Convergent MightyFrame

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Sep 1, 2017, 6:08:52 PM9/1/17
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Frank, congratulations!  That was VERY fast work!  I didn't do that much for you here, but I'm glad that worked out.

So are you running off of the MFM Emulator now?

Did you leave the hard drive mounted in the machine, and just put the emulator next to it?
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Fritz Chwolka

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Sep 7, 2017, 6:42:52 PM9/7/17
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I save the manuals, roms and the mfm-image  made by Frank at http://oldcomputers.dyndns.org/public/pub/rechner/convergent_technologies/

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